Friday, November 26, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

Neon signs from Earl Abel's fabulous restaurant and coffee shop
Broadway, San Antonio, Texas, October 2002

One of the many things for which I am most thankful, now that Thanksgiving in America is over, is the great diner food at San Antonio's fabulous Earl Abel's.  A fixture of San Antonio dining for almost a century, so were its customers at its old location, at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand.  

It was the kind of place that had its last facelift sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s, and where you could find comfort food freshly cooked, along with an amazing selection of scrumptious pies and cakes.  As the Welsh say, "lush."

I don't remember them ever having a "wall of fame," but everybody who was somebody stopped by the legendary eatery.  The most famous story about Earl Abel's was when Democrat congressman, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez ate there.  A fellow diner called him a "communist," and Henry B. apparently wailed on him. True story (I think).  Who knows?  It's fun to tell.

This photograph was taken on Polaroid's legendary (and, also defunct) 669 film, a nighttime double exposure, with my trust Colorpack III camera.  For a tripod, I leaned against one of the convenient telephone poles which lined the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

Sadly, Earl Abel's -- the most beautiful example of Art Deco architecture still surviving in San Antonio -- met the wrecking ball in 2006.  It was bought out by Red McCombs, a car dealer who throws a lot of money around to local charities to make a big show of how magnanimous he is.  Instead of following his policy of benign neglect that he employed previously as owner of the Minnesota Vikings, McCombs razed Earl Abel's to make way for yet another boring high-rise.  Real class.

Fortunately, the Earl Abel's name was bought out by the Elias Brothers restauranteurs and though, architecturally, it's but a shadow of its former self, you can sate your appetite for lush food at its new location at 1201 Austin Highway.